Today's college students are both like and unlike those of previous generations. They bring with them similar aspirations for personal growth and development, but with increasing pressures to gain an education that provides a path to a profession. Among this group are many first-generation college students and under-represented minorities, along with students from abroad, veterans, prison inmates, and students with disabilities. The challenges that faculty members now encounter in their classrooms require concerted and collaborative efforts to help all students achieve academic success, especially those who need increased academic support.
The Diverse Classroom
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the college classroom of the future will become more diverse than ever in our history. Between 2011 and 2022, African-American and Hispanic student populations are each projected to increase by more than 25%.1 Are colleges and universities prepared to educate increasing numbers of historically under-represented students? In what ways will increased student diversity influence classroom conversations, or the types of courses offered within the curriculum? How will faculty members respond to students with varied backgrounds and experiences that may differ from their own?
The May 2015 issue of Diversity in Academe, published by the Chronicle of Higher Education, focused on the multiple challenges experienced by first-generation college students. Nationwide, approximately 20 percent of full-time undergraduates are the first in their families to attend college. These students and their families often struggle to obtain the necessary finances to support their educational aspirations. In addition, they tend to work longer hours at their jobs. First-generation students are more likely to live off campus, which limits social engagement and academic interactions with their peers. According to a report by The Pell Institute2, first-generation students from low-income families are four times more likely to leave college after their first year, and only 11 percent of these students earned bachelor's degrees within six years. In light of these sobering statistics, how can colleges and universities promote the retention, progress, and success of first-generation students?
There has been a rapid growth in the number of international students who study at U.S. colleges and universities. According to a 2015 report by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program3, there are 1.13 million students who are currently enrolled in almost 9,000 U.S. schools. This number represents a 14 percent increase from the previous year, and an 85% increase since 2005. Three quarters of today's international students are from Asia, with China, India, and South Korea as the top three countries sending students to the U.S.
International students often bring different academic backgrounds, languages, and cultural expectations to the college classroom. How are we accommodating the growth of international diversity in the student population? How can faculty members ensure that international and domestic students both benefit from their educational interaction?
The New Students
Other student populations are equally in need of special attention. Many veterans are now enrolling in college after their military service. Transfer students, especially those making the transition from two-year to four-year institutions, often struggle to adjust to the social and academic culture of a new college or university. Commuter students are often left out of conversations about campus community. Students with disabilities require extra assistance to support their educational goals. Finally, there is growing interest in offering college courses to prison inmates, with the aim of breaking the cycle of recidivism. How is higher education responding to the needs of this diverse set of students?
Technology and Learning Tools
Concurrent with all of these trends is the pervasive role of technology in our students' lives. Today's student generation is the first to grow up using the Internet as their primary source of information. It is the first to be deeply immersed in the culture of social media, with instant access to continuous communication from mobile devices.
MIT's Sherry Turkle, a longtime scholar and observer of how technology impacts society, argues that the ubiquitous presence of cell phones has diminished the frequency and depth of students' personal communication, while reducing their ability to focus and concentrate.4 Conversely, students who are accustomed to constantly networking with friends in real time may be more inclined towards group activities and innovative strategies for interactive learning. In light of these technological developments, what teaching strategies can faculty members use to increase student engagement and improve student learning?
The 2016 FRN National Symposium, located in Atlanta, Georgia, will examine these challenging questions by drawing on our collective expertise as scholars, educators, practitioners, and administrators. We look forward to holding our sessions at three FRN member institutions: Clark-Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College.
Breakout Sessions and Poster Topics
We invite breakout sessions and poster topics in all areas related to the theme of this symposium. We particularly encourage submissions that illustrate how participation in an FRN-sponsored activity (e.g., a Network Summer or Network Winter seminar, time spent as a Scholar-in-Residence, etc.) has influenced your research and teaching.
Examples of suitable topics are listed below but other submissions are welcome:
- Educating multiple generations, diversities and cultures in the classroom
- Promoting the retention and success of first-generation students
- Teaching international students
- Educating military veterans
- Supporting students with disabilities
- Educating the prison population
- Using educational technologies to enhance student engagement
- Understanding and addressing the diverse learning styles and needs of 21st century students
- Using evidence-based strategies to increase student success and equitable learning outcomes
1 National Center for Education Statistics, Projections of Education Statistics to 2022
2 The Pell Institute, Moving Beyond Access: College Success for Low-Income, First Generation Students
3 Student Exchange Visitor Program, February 2015 report.
4 Sherry Turkle, Talk to Me: How to Teach in an Age of Distraction.
The Chronicle Review, October 9, 2015, B6-B9.
Guidelines for Submission of Proposals
ABSTRACT: We request a one-page abstract (between 300-500 words) of the intended breakout session or poster presentation. The abstract should outline the content and structure of the session, together with its intellectual merit and education value for the symposium participants. The abstract should include the names, institutional affiliations and contact information for each presenter. Please clearly indicate whether your proposal is for a breakout session or a poster presentation.
BREAKOUT SESSION: Breakout sessions are scheduled for one hour. We encourage submissions by a group of 2-4 presenters, which emphasize collaboration and are organized around a common theme. Proposals submitted by individuals (if accepted) will be combined with other proposal topics within the breakout session.
POSTER PRESENTATION: Poster presentations may be submitted by individuals or by groups of any size.
Proposal submission deadline: Friday, April 15, 2016.
Please send your abstract and supporting documentation as an email attachment to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Previous National Symposia
- 2015 National Symposium: "Advancing Social Justice from Classroom to Community"
- 2014 National Symposium: "The Global Imperative for Higher Education"
- 2013 National Symposium: "Reinventing Liberal Education"
- 2012 National Symposium: "New Faces, New Expectations"
- 2011 National Symposium: "Emerging Pedagogies for the New Millenium"
- 2010 National Symposium: "Engaging Students in the Community and the World"
- 2009 National Symposium: "Challenge as Opportunity: The Academy in the Best and Worst of Times"
- 2008 National Symposium: "Defining and Promoting Student Success"
- 2007 National Symposium: "Advancing Women and the Underrepresented in the Academy"
- 2006 National Symposium: "The Millennial Student"
- 2005 National Symposium: "Spirituality and Higher Education"
- 2004 National Symposium: "Beyond Brown vs. Board of Education: Diversity and Higher Education"
- 2003 National Symposium: "Approaching Assessment: The Road Ahead"
- 2002 National Symposium: "Being a Professor..."
- 2000 National Symposium: "The Future of Liberal Arts Education"
- 1999 National Symposium: "The Teaching and Learning Continuum"